Plateau Haute Route day to day description, map and photos

Day 8 - Extra day in the Zermatt area

Because we have scheduled in an extra day to accommodate weather or conditions, we may find ourselves in Zermatt one day early. If this is the case, or if you simply would like to stay for another day's skiing, there are a number of options to consider.


Perhaps our favorite option is the Schwarztor ski descent. This glacier ski route is a bit like "Vallée Blanche on steroids". We begin by riding the Klein Matterhorn cablecar to its high 3880 meter summit. As we exit the lift we traverse the Breithorn Plateau, and round the peak on the south, Italian, side. Between the Breithorn and neighboring Pollux we pass through the narrow pass of the Schwarztor and find ourselves on the wonderful north-facing slopes of the upper Schwarze Glacier. We have always enjoyed good snow here, winding down through occasionally crevassed slopes. About 4000 feet lower we drop down onto the giant Gorner Glacier and finish with an unforgettable roller-coaster of a ride through its melt water carved canyon of ice and a unique descent of the glacier toe.

Zermatt to Saas Fee

This is the classic way to finish the Haute Route, extending the tour into Saas Fee. This is a long day, including about 6 to 8 hours of skiing. Well need an early start, good fitness and fine weather for this outing. In order to do the trip in a single day, we'll ride the combined Gornergrat railway and cable cars to the top of the Stockhorn at 3405 meters. From the Stockhorn we ski along the ridge crest east, finally dropping (on usually wonderful powder) onto the Findel Glacier crossing to the north at 3100 meters. From here we have a long climb up to the Adler Pass at 3789 meters, tucked between the two 4200 meter summits of the Rimpfischhorn and the Strahlhorn. This is the start of a wonderful 6500 foot descent into the town of Saas Fee. We'll warn you now about the brief but unfortunate skin-up of 80 meters to reach the Britannia Hut and then the ski pistes of Saas Fee!

Ascent of the Cima di Jazzi

We love the ski descent as much as the name. The Jazzi is a 3800 meter summit located on the high ridge that separates the Zermatt and Saas valleys. To reach it, we first ride the lifts to Blauherd, ski down to Gant, then another lift to Hohtäli, above the famous Gornergrat. Another lift and then another descent finally gets us to the summit of the Stockhorn, where we begin our skinning. We ski east, up the spectacularly beautiful ridge to reach the Stockhornpass. From here easy slopes lead up to the summit. The descent is down the northwest face, to the Findel Glacier and then all the way down to Gant. If there is enough snow, we can continue to Zermatt–if not, we'll download on the lift system.

Ski into Italy and Cervinia

From both the Zermatt valley to the north and the Italian town of Cervinia to the south, complex systems of lifts reach the crest of the Alps and the Swiss-Italian border, just east of the Matterhorn. Using these lift we can enjoy skiing in both countries in a single day. A fine day would include a morning ascent from the Swiss side, skiing the pistes on the south facing Italian side. At the appropriate time we would ski down into Cervinia for a fine lunch. Riding the lifts again to the crest we either ski the pistes back into Zermatt, or for a bit more adventure, ski the off-piste Unter Theodul Glacier to the Gorner Glacier and finish as per the Schwarztor. Bring your passport!


Arriving at the tip to the Klein Matterhorn lift, en route to the Schwartztor.
After passing around the Italian side of the Breithorn, we have passed through the Schwartztor proper and are starting down the upper part of the Schwärzegletscher. Great snow!


Negotiating the lower part of the Schwärzegletscher is usually interesting. On this year, 2002, the thin snowpack made it especially so. After side-slipping into this crevasse we climbed over a small crevasse (using a belay) before exiting out to the left. Wild!
Here is the view in the other direction. Wandering amongst such ice formation is one of the things that makes touring the Alps, and this tour in particular, so amazing.


Lower on the Schwärzegletscher we have more open skiing.


On this day we did a minor variation of the Schwartztor where we climbed up and over point 3282, to get to the great slopes on its north side.
This picture was actually take on a traverse from the Monte Rosa hut to Sass Fee. This is a very fine 3 day add-on, which includes the Schwartztor, a ski up Monte Rosa, and the continuation to Saas.

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